Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal is an influential book-length statement on sexual politics in the United States. Published at the end of the 1990s, it includes discussions of sex scandals like the one that plagued President Bill Clinton,...
Michael Warner is an English professor and leading figure in the study of sex and sexuality in American culture. Currently, he is the Seymour H. Knox Professor of English Literature and American Studies at Yale University. In addition to his scholarly work, he writes in popular press forums such as The Nation and The Advocate.
Warner grew up in a Christian household, and many of his scholarly studies explore themes of religion in American society. After receiving a Ph.D. in English from Johns Hopkins University in 1986, Warner published his first book, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America, in 1990. This book explores how early American culture, including religious culture, constructed itself through “print culture,” or the publishing and circulation of books, pamphlets, and other documents. Warner’s work through the present has continued to reflect on how cultures and communities are created by and maintained through the circulation of discourse. He theorized the relation between discursive communities and subcultures in a book called Publics and Counterpublics, published in 2002.
In the 1990s, Warner also advocated for the emerging academic field of study called queer theory. Inaugurated by books like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, both published in 1990, this field of study examined the meanings cultures attach to gender, sex, and sexuality, how these meanings change across time, and how they are used to create power dynamics and social inequalities. In 1993, Warner edited an academic volume of essays that explored these themes, Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Six years later, he published a book on queer theory and gay politics for a popular audience beyond the academy. That book is The Trouble with Normal, and it has been very influential in discussions of such issues as gay marriage, queer culture, and the politics of shame.
Given the range of his academic work and political writing, Warner has been recognized by numerous awards and accolades. He also continues to influence new generations of scholars, both as a professor at Yale and as a member of the board of such organizations as the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.